Since February 2018, Temple University’s Cherry Pantry has offered free, non-perishable food to students in need. The goal of the Cherry Pantry is to help combat hunger in the Temple community by supplying nutritious emergency food, according to their website.
Volunteering is a great opportunity for students to give back because it brings awareness to basic needs and can be as easy as donating an item, said Rachael Stark, the senior associate dean of students.
Twenty-five percent of students in Philadelphia’s four-year public colleges reported fearing they’d run out of food before they could buy more, and 26 percent reported being unable to afford balanced meals, according to a May 2021 survey from the Hope Center.
Because food insecurity is prevalent among college students in Philadelphia, students must donate food or hygiene items or volunteer their time at the Cherry Pantry. Food insecurity is a systemic problem that cannot be addressed solely by students, but their support can help students at Temple in need.
If more students donated, the Cherry Pantry could build awareness about food insecurity among college students through volunteering and discussions about the pantry, said David Koppisch, the associate director of community engagement at the Hope Center.
“If nearly a third of students are saying they experienced food insecurity, then this is not some isolated cases of particularly unusually needy students, this is really a really widespread thing,” Koppisch said.
Students have different options, like setting up tables and collecting items, volunteering in the pantry or hosting their own food drives, Stark said. Students can also purchase items from the pantry’s wish list to donate, according to their website.
Getting involved helps students better understand how their fellow students are affected by food insecurity, said Kristina Mueller, a senior health professions major, and the external coordinator for the Cherry Pantry.
“You really become aware of what is happening on campus and the challenges that students can face on campus when it comes to food insecurity,” Mueller said.
The pantry has collaborated with other organizations to promote the resources it offers. For example, the pantry partnered with the Office of Sustainability for their Pop-up Thrift Shop where students purchased clothing for under $5, and all proceeds went to the Cherry Pantry.
The pantry is currently facing more of a stocking issue rather than volunteering, said Samantha Roehl, a sophomore communications major and the publicist for the Cherry Pantry.
Because of the demand the pantry typically faces, they need more donations to meet students’ needs.
Students can help by donating food or hygiene items which can be dropped off as frequently as they’d like.
Students facing food and housing insecurity have lower grade point averages, poorer health and higher rates of depression and anxiety than those who don’t face these challenges, according to a May 2021 survey from the Hope Center.
“Having enough food during the week during your month, does correlate with student persistence,” Koppisch said. “So, in the long run, helping students meet their food needs, clearly is correlated to academic success and staying in school.”
By donating or volunteering to the Cherry Pantry, students can assist their peers facing food insecurity and help make a difference in their lives.